What can I do with a degree in Natural Resources Engineering?

Hydro station on EPE field trip

Natural resources engineers use their knowledge and skills to improve or maintain the sustainability of natural resource use through the creative design and wise application of technology. These resources include land, soils, water, the atmosphere, renewable energy and biological resources (such as plants and animals). Natural resources engineering takes into consideration both the impact of humans on natural systems and the impact of natural systems on humans.

Communication skills are vital, as all professional engineers need to be able to provide detailed engineering reports and effectively take part in presentations, public hearings and inquiries.

Through their Natural Resources Engineering degree graduates gain a skillset that includes:

  • Engineering design
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Ecological, hydrological, biological and social science knowledge
  • Awareness of environmental, ethical, cultural and legal considerations
  • Logical and quantitative thinking
  • Problem solving and decision making
  • Ability to apply technology and science.

Applied learning

Students undertake 800 hours of practical work experience as part of this degree. This provides you with industry understanding and the confidence to apply your skills. Learning and networking also take place during fieldtrips and an industry project.

UC-trained natural resources engineers are employed in a number of organisations such as:

  • Professional engineering consultancies eg, Aurecon, Pattle Delamore Partners, Beca, Morphum Environmental, Stantec, Jacobs, Opus International, AECOM, GHD, Tonkin & Taylor, Calibre, Good Earth Matters, Cardno, LDE Ltd, ENGEO Ltd, Golder Associates, Index Engineering
  • Government bodies eg, Ministry for the Environment, Environmental Protection Authority, Department of Conservation, Waikato Regional Council, Environment Canterbury, Auckland Regional Council • Primary industry companies eg, agriculture • Engineering contractors eg, Fulton Hogan, Watercare, McConnell Dowell, Downer, CityCare
  • Energy companies eg, Meridian Energy, Enercon Ltd, Woodside Energy
  • Transport eg, Kiwirail, NZ Transport Agency
  • Research institutes eg, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Landcare Research.

Due to their ability to manage a range of environmental applications, graduates can be found in diverse rural and urban industries, from the defence force to product innovation.

Natural resources engineers may specialise in:

  • Pollution management and treatment
  • Water resources and irrigation
  • Renewable energy
  • Land and water conservation
  • Geotechnical engineering
  • River catchment management
  • Urban and community planning
  • Public health engineering
  • Waste management and recovery.

Natural Resources Engineering graduates are employed in a number of jobs — see some examples below.

Note: Some of the jobs listed may require postgraduate study. See the ‘Further study’ section.

Natural resources engineer

  • Maximises the use of natural resources
  • Designs plans for land, water, and sustainable energy development
  • Assesses environmental impacts
  • Future proofs infrastructure for climate change

Environmental engineer

  • Tests environmental samples for pollution
  • Investigates any legislative concerns
  • Minimises the project’s environmental impact
  • Designs waste management systems

Water engineer, water resources engineer

  • Designs water-related systems eg, pipe work, irrigation systems
  • Monitors the progress of water projects
  • Checks water-related systems for issues

Ecological engineer

  • Develops prevention strategies for pollution and erosion
  • Examines the impacts on ecological systems
  • Designs sustainable infrastructure that benefits both the ecosystem and people

Waste management expert

  • Develops and applies safe procedures for disposing of hazardous waste material
  • Designs waste management systems
  • Trains staff to manage waste materials

Geotechnical engineer

  • Studies soil and rock materials, and the technology that builds in, on, and with them
  • Analyses geologic data and how a site will behave under pressure to determine an area’s suitability for construction
  • Writes reports and makes recommendations

Humanitarian engineer

  • Applies expertise to empower and support disadvantaged communities
  • Develops solutions with local groups to ensure access to vital resources eg, clean water, energy
  • Problem solves in challenging environments

Sustainability engineer / advisor / analyst

  • Promotes sustainability initiatives
  • Manages water, power and waste practices
  • Identifies opportunities for efficiency and cost reduction

Project engineer

  • Manages a project plan, budget and schedule
  • Supervises a project’s daily progress
  • Liaises with project staff and clients

Entrepreneur and CEO

  • Develops an idea to form their own business
  • Gets involved in a start-up
  • Offers their services as a consultant

Get started with Entrepreneurship here

As they progress, students and graduates often join professional bodies or organisations relevant to their area of interest. These organisations can provide regular communications and offer the chance to network with others.

UC hosts industry and IPENZ events which can help students make industry connections.

Social media networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can provide avenues to keep up-to-date with industry knowledge, networking opportunities, events and job vacancies.

Learn from our students' experiences

For more information

see the Natural Resources Engineering subject page